Volunteers and Organizations Nationwide Honored by AmeriCorps
Multiple AmeriCorps members and grantees in the State and National program received Excellence in AmeriCorps Awards
WASHINGTON, DC – AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism, recognized four AmeriCorps members and two grantees in the State and National program for their excellence in service. Each year, AmeriCorps State and National recognizes programs and individuals for the Excellence in AmeriCorps Award that consistently supports its mission in the following categories: Impactful Service Award, Inclusive Service Award, Innovative Service Award and Lifetime of Service Award.
Impactful Service: Grace Glasgow, an AmeriCorps alumna, served with AmeriCorps State and National program Impact America’s Focus First Initiative. Focus First is a program that requires travel throughout the state of Alabama to provide vision screenings for children in childcare centers aged 6 months to 5 years old. In the fall of 2022 and spring of 2023, Glasgow screened 5,226 children in 22 counties of Alabama, where 495 of these children failed their vision screening, and she referred them for subsidized follow-up care. For just one of these children, this could mean the difference between starting elementary school with the ability to recognize facial reactions, understand instructions, and see the board. During tax season, Glasgow managed Impact America’s busiest free tax preparation site in Montgomery, Alabama, which helped families receive more than $1 million in refunds and saved nearly $275,000 in fees.
Innovative Service: Joanna Urive is an AmeriCorps member serving at the Public Defender Agency in Anchorage, Alaska. The Public Defender Agency serves people with the highest need accused of crimes or named in Child in Need of Assistance matters. Clients often struggle with access to basic needs and the assistance of AmeriCorps members helps to alleviate that need, including treatment programs that help mitigate criminal matters, but also expand into support that benefits the client in their day-to-day life. Urive has developed her clients’ care beyond the expectation of an AmeriCorps member by utilizing a promotion offered at her second job for the betterment of the clients at the Public Defender Agency.
Inclusive Service: iFoster for Transition-Age Youth is a national AmeriCorps program that recruits young people from the foster youth community to train and serve as peer navigators and mentors in California, Kentucky, Nevada, New York, Ohio and Washington. iFoster’s basic structure inherently recruits from underserved and minority communities. Subsequently, those communities are heavily represented in iFoster’s cohort and the population it serves. In addition to purposely hiring former foster youth to serve in their cohort, iFoster directly engages with foster youth, child welfare agencies, and caregivers within the community through outreach, resource navigation, peer navigation, and community events. Those involved with the program are also given skills and tools to become self-sufficient and resilient during their transition from foster care to life outside of the child welfare system.
Lifetime of Service: Sondra Samuels has dedicated her life to service. She served in the Peace Corps in Botswana, Africa where she facilitated the start-up of more than 50 new businesses. Upon her return in 1994, Sondra joined the first class of AmeriCorps members where she served as an AmeriCorps leader in a Philadelphia neighborhood's Weed-n-Seed initiative. The mission was to weed out crime and violence while planting seeds of hope. Samuels lived in the neighborhood where she was serving, building relationships with community members, and together they marched for peace, planted gardens, ensured the safety of children, and worked to stem the tide of the drug trade destroying the neighborhood. Currently, Samuels serves as the president and CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone where she is leading a revolutionary culture shift in North Minneapolis focused on ending multigenerational poverty through education.
Excellence in Disaster Services Leadership: Michael Rojas served as an AmeriCorps member with the Iowa Habitat for Humanity Mobile Response Team, responding to tornadoes and floods. He was then hired on as staff to lead and mentor new members in doing the same. Starting in 2020, Rojas led the Iowa COVID-19 pandemic food insecurity response. When a derecho swept through the state that year, he served as the AmeriCorps Disaster Services incident commander for a FEMA mission assignment. Since then, he has joined Volunteer Iowa as the disaster program officer, taking the leadership skills he learned through AmeriCorps and putting them to work at the state and national levels.
Outstanding AmeriCorps Response Team: Founded in 1994, AmeriCorps St. Louis is a nonprofit organization that engages AmeriCorps members in community service initiatives addressing critical unmet needs in the areas of disaster response, environmental stewardship, and wildland firefighting. AmeriCorps St. Louis focuses on the training and development of the next generation of leaders while building the capacity of partner agencies to achieve impactful community results. The AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team is a multi-functional rapid deployment group that has been requested nationally to assist with floods, tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, search and rescue, ice storms, terrorist attacks, and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, AmeriCorps St. Louis has owned and operated a facility that serves as a resource center for individuals experiencing homelessness since 2009. Currently, the organization offers weekly outreach services to people in the community who do not have a permanent residence.
“AmeriCorps members and grantees, like those awarded, dedicate their time and skills to improve their communities and we are thrilled to highlight and honor the impressive work they have done,” said Michael D. Smith, CEO, AmeriCorps. “Every day I am inspired by our incredible AmeriCorps members and grantees for the contributions they make to America. Our members and grantees ensure our nation is a better place for generations to come. When America calls, AmeriCorps answers.”
Since the first class of AmeriCorps members pledged to “get things done for America” nearly 30 years ago, more than 1.25 million Americans have served. Every year, thousands of AmeriCorps members prepare students for success, rebuild communities and revitalize cities, support veterans transitioning from military to civilian life, fight the opioid epidemic, preserve public lands, strengthen the workforce and so much more.
Now in its ninth year, the Excellence in AmeriCorps Awards honor the outstanding and innovative State and National programs, members, and alumni tackling our nation’s most pressing challenges.